They walked away from the luge track one after the next, the three leading women of American luge, each disappointed and shaken in her own way. The one who finished in 19th place said her performance was “incredibly devastating.” The one who finished sixth, in the final Olympic race of her career, said she just wanted to go to bed and sleep. The one who crashed, caromed and didn’t finish the race was the luger most upset of all, evaluated by doctors who detected neither head trauma nor broken bones, but crying nonetheless.
It was Emily Sweeney’s injury that cast a pall over this race, a reminder of what can happen on an ice track when going 80 mph. Halfway through the course, near the ninth turn, she skidded and lost control. Her body ping-ponged through several more turns. She flew off her sled and fell backward. Officials rushed over with a stretcher. But Sweeney hobbled away on her own.
“I’m fine,” she said 20 minutes later, wiping tears, telling the half-dozen people around her that she didn’t want to go to the hospital. A USA Luge official said she was taken to a clinic at the Olympic Village for evaluation.
Sweeney was born in Portland, but now lives in Connecticut.
Americans are still only on the fringe of the women’s luge world, where Germany again dominated Tuesday night, with Natalie Geisenberger defending her Olympic gold medal. But it is a night such as this one that U.S. lugers say is the best opportunity to grow the sport — by winning medals, by grabbing the spotlight. Instead, the evening was by turns harrowing and somber, ending as the country’s most decorated female luger, Erin Hamlin, came .269 seconds shy of the podium.
“This is the end,” Hamlin said not long after. “I’m ready to sleep. I’m ready for pizza and a long time of sleep.”
Geisenberger won gold by maintaining the lead she took into the day. The women’s luge singles event is composed of four runs split over two days. Germany’s Dajana Eitberger grabbed the silver, and Canada’s Alex Gough won bronze. Hamlin, the flag bearer in the opening ceremony, was the highest U.S. finisher at sixth.
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.